To The Ends of the Earth...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Life In Jalal-Abad

What I like:
One of the things I love about J-A is that they sell candy apples here! They remind me of the Fly Creek Cider Mill, except here they wrap them in saran wrap which can be kinda tricky to take off, but well worth the effort!

The bread here is super amazing!

There’s a little shop near my house and it is run by several Uzbek women who are really friendly! I like going there! The one lady often says I look like a Russian girl, and everyone is surprised I’m American. One of the ladies even practices her English when I cash out with her.

The produce is fresh and not expensive…unless it’s something out of season.

The parks are very nice!

I’ve heard there is one park with the best ice cream! I can’t wait to try it!! Ice cream in Kstan is not like ice cream in America, it is definitely one of the things I miss when I’m here. Hoping for the best- I’ll keep ya posted! The shop doesn’t open until Noorus- March 21.

What I’m getting used to:
Litter everywhere!

Being noticeably different and getting looks/sneers  from people.

Everything closes at 6 or 7! And everyone is off the street when the sun goes down.

How dusty it is here. I think women cover their heads not so much for religious purposes but to keep their hair cleaner!

Not having a refrigerator.

A very male dominated culture.
-interesting fact: all the stop signs are in English.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Visa Run-Around

After a whole 2 ½ weeks in Jalal-Abad, I needed to return to Bishkek to apply for a longer visa. It usually takes two weeks to process so I got there Dec 10, enough time to get all my documents in order and turn them in, knowing something would be missing and I’d have to go back a couple times before everything was good enough for them to accept my papers and begin the process. It seems to never fail, that when I have everything just as it was once before, something has changed and I need something more or something different. I was prepared for this.

I got the check list of things I needed. I went with my director to get the proper documents of our organization and get the proper signatures of the proper people. He said this is usually a three day process- something I didn’t need during my previous term. Thankfully, upon entering the building he ran into a childhood friend of his, who had some status within the building. He took our papers and did the running around for us; gathering the signatures and stamps which we needed. Instead of three days, it took one afternoon!! I thought for sure this was a good sign and the rest of the process was going to go just as smooth. Boy was I wrong!

I usually have gotten a visa before entering Kyrgyzstan, but this time I was told that they have a stamp you can get upon entering the airport, it’s like a free, two month tourist visa. Unfortunately, I found out that the stamp does not qualify as a real visa. That’s what the lady told me as I brought in my paperwork, that and that in order to get a visa I’ll have to leave the country and upon re-entering get a visa at the air port. So…I brainstormed my options:
*Travel to Kazakhstan. Going by car would be cheaper. Though I’d have to stay in Almaty for a couple weeks while I applied for a Kyrgyzstan visa at the Kyrgyz Embassy there…though who do I stay with. Then I found out I’d also need a visa for that country which alone was $220!
*Buy a plane ticket to Istanbul and come back in the same day- about $500. Though if I was traveling to Istanbul, I’d rather make a trip of vacation out of it; no fun by myself.
*Uzbekistan apparently was not a viable option. Everyone told me ‘no’.
*Fly to Tajikistan for a few days- visa- $33, plane ticket-$100+, stay for free with YFC people there.

So I went and bought a plane ticket for Dushanbe!
Before I left, I made sure I had all my paper work in order so that upon my return to Kyrgyzstan I could apply for a 6mo visa at the air port.

As I entered the air port in Kyrgyzstan, I saw that the counselor’s room was shut and locked. I asked a lady where I could get a visa, she asked me where I was from and I said I’m American, and she said that I didn’t need a visa (referring to the free 60 day stamp), and I smiled and said I know but I need a visa. She then proceeded to point to the locked room. I walked back over and knocked on the door and pulled, she noticed it wasn’t open. She went to ask someone else who then came over and we had the same conversation about me not needing a visa, but me needing a visa. So I sat there and waited while they called for someone. Then I see a guy walking over with a brief case…I’m sure this is the guy and I’m already at strike two because I’ve obviously taken him from something else. He goes in the room and opens the window and tells me to fill out a form. I hand him my packet of forms and documents and tell him I’d like to apply for a six month visa. He takes my papers, looks at them, gives them back- all but the top paper, and says I’ll give you a one month visa and you can apply for a longer one in the country…that’ll be $70. I paid the guy, got my one month visa sticker in my passport and proceeded to pick up my luggage. I’m certain everyone there thought I was crazy- I just paid $70 for a 30 day visa when I could get a 60 day pass for free…everyone including myself.

I arrived in Kyrgyzstan on Christmas, December 25. In few short days it will be New Years and all the offices will be closed for at least the first week of January. I’m now in a race against time. So much for planning on having my visa by Christmas and returning to Jalal-Abad after New Years!

Ever know you need to do something, but dread doing it because you know it’s not going to go as you hope. Yes, that was me. I arrived Tuesday afternoon, and finally made it back to the Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday, to once again give someone my documents and apply for a 6mo visa so I could return to the south and be able to stay there for a while before needing to once again return and reapply. I went by myself as everyone was sick or busy, and of course, as I handed the lady my papers, she looked through them and said the letter was missing stuff, I needed stamps on three papers, and I couldn’t apply for a 6mo visa; the most they could give me was a 3mo visa for some reason I didn’t understand.
So once again, I left with my papers in hand and I wanted to cry! I called my director and told him of the changes that needed to be made and the other things that needed to be done.

Saturday, December 29, my friend and I, with papers, documents, corrections in hand went again to the DOFA. This time they accepted everything and said my passport and 3mo visa would be ready January14. When my friend asked why I could only get a three month visa, the lady said because ours is an organization not a fund. When we left we both looked at each other and just shook our heads and laughed because that very week the other American volunteer on our team was given a 6 month visa!
Oh Kyrgyzstan, I love you, but sometimes you make me want to pull my hair out!


 One of the things that our team here does is visit an orphanage for kids with special needs; invalids as they are referred to. There are three different buildings for the children, we visit the children in the second building. They are mobile and for the most part comprehensive. My first time there, it broke my heart. These kids are so sweet and long for attention, and some of them could easily be educated and assimilate into society. But having a child with special needs is a cultural stigma. It looks bad, neighbors will talk about it, and according to some Islamic teachings- it is a sign that you have done something wrong.

Being there reminded me of the kids I would see from the special ed class when I worked at a high school in the States. They were educated and taught job skills. I thought how lucky they are to be born there and not here. For these kids, their life is very basic, if they live to be 16-17 they move out of those dorms and into the one for adults.  

When we go, we have an activity time with them. We bring different balls and play with them. If it is nice, we go outside. I have an idea to bring some music and do some musical games/activities, my director here says that would be good; something they haven’t done before. Though not all the kids are active, some prefer to just sit around and watch what goes on. Others prefer to stay right by your side and hug and hang on to you. To see them smile and have a good time makes me smile. Then it’s time to leave and they help put the balls away and give you a last hug and wave good-bye. Until next time…

Electric Mayhem

I am a fan of the Muppets, but this is not about Dr. Teeth and his band.
Power outages are of no surprise in Kyrgyzstan, but when the power is only working in half of your apartment, you know you have a problem that needs to be checked out soon. Especially when it’s the half that works the hot water tank and the washing machine! So I called on my co-workers who have experience in remodeling and home repairs. Also in Kyrgyzstan, things don’t get attention right away, but eventually the guys came over to seek out the problem. Mukash checked the fuses and then removed a cover in the wall and what was behind that shocked us all! It was a bundled mess of burnt wires! Even those not electrical savvy could see that this conglomerate of grilled chaos was very unprofessionally done and very unsafe. The wires weren’t capped or taped or anything! Not being able to fix the problem at the moment as the bazaar was closed, he pulled the wires out of the wall and separated them and got the electricity working again. 

My roommate and I enjoyed having the electricity back for the evening and I was looking forward to having a bath in the morning with plenty of hot water, rather than just what I could prepare in our pots and tea kettle…not to mention a warm bathroom, as the heat for that room had also not been working. It’s not so preferable to wash your hair in a room where you can see your breath because it’s that cold. So I went to bed. Only to be woken up by a loud ‘POP’. I knew it was the electricity so I ran and opened my door and looked at the spot where the wires were…they seemed to be ok. Then I heard water running and thought maybe my roommate was taking a shower and the lights went out and just as I was going to knock on the bathroom door, she came out of her room. So I opened the door to see where the water was coming from and the room was filled with white smoke and smelled of burnt electricity! Though there was no water running there. So we went into the kitchen and there we saw our hot water tank spewing out water! Not exactly what you want to wake up to. Thankfully who ever installed the hot water tank, placed it over the kitchen sink so all the water was going into the sink instead of on the floor!  I got under the sink and shut off the water, then opened the door to the balcony to air out the smoke from the bathroom and the burnt electrical smell as much as possible.

When it got too cold and seemed to be aired out enough, we closed the door. Then we just stood there, staring at the loose wires looking to see if anything more was going to occur; not wanting to turn our backs to it! Finally we decided it was safe enough to retreat into our rooms, though not whole heartedly believing that to be true. I shut off the fuses, so that no electricity would be running. Which when it’s winter and your heaters are electrical- you know you’re going to have a cold night. But I figured a cold apartment was better than one engulfed in flames! Which I did prepare for, before going to bed, got my necessities ready to take if I had to run out because of a fire.
Neither of us slept too well that night. Thankfully, no fire occurred, no one was electrocuted, and the problem has been repaired properly.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Culture Nuggets

The southern part of the country is different in many respects, including the culture and the mindset of the people. I haven't been here long, but I have learned some interesting things:

*If you look at someone's child too long, they believe that child will become ill.

*If you are at someone's home and are about to leave it is common for the host to say, "You're leaving now? You should stay and have some tea." This is just a nicety and you should never agree to stay for tea- that would be rude.

*People only burn candles if the power goes out. If they see you are burning a candle (maybe because it is a scented candle and you want your place to smell nice, or for ambiance), they will assume you are worshiping your dead ancestors; that you lit the candle to pray for/worship them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Funny English

Since I've been back in Bishkek, I've been meeting up with some former English Club students- talking and catching up. It has been fun and it has been a while since some of them have practiced their English so some of the understandings have been forgotten. :)

One of the students, after hearing me use the phrase- figure out- didn't know what it meant so he looked it up. Starting with the word figure, which the dictionary defined it as someone's body figure/shape. Then adding the word out- he concluded the phrase 'figure out' meant for someone to get fatter. :) After he shared that he didn't understand what I was talking about, he asked about the phrase 'figure out', I explained what it meant and he told me what he had thought the meaning was, and then we all had a very good laugh!!

Back in Central Asia!!

You can tell when you're back in Central Asia when the taxi driver is inquiring and giving advise about your personal life!
Recently I took a taxi downtown, got in and the driver was a nice older Kyrgyz man who was pretty talkative....I started to put my seatbelt on and noticed the recieving end was broken and told me to just hold it accross me- this is Kyrgyzstan and anything goes. To which I laughed and agreed. So, we were talking and he said I had a good heart and kind spirit, and asked where I was from and I said America. He asks how many children I have and I say none. He then asks where my husband is and I say I'm not married. He asks how old I am, I say 33. He asks if I have a boyfriend and I say yes, but he's in America. He then goes on to say, that if he were younger he would steal me (bride stealing is traditional). He goes on to say that I'm very nice, and that I need to skype or call my boyfriend and tell him to come here quickly and marry me. I reply- I'll let him know you said so. He asks how many children I want to have and then says don't even say 2 or I said five is a good number that of which he agreed. He proceeds to tell me how old he was when he got married and started having a family and that (for a woman) having children at a younger age is better for her and the baby, etc. pretty much telling me I'm getting a late start. Fortunatley, I then reached my destination, said good-bye and thanked him, and then laughed to myself about the conversation I just had with the taxi driver. :)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

blocked my last post was last year due to the fact that while I was in Kyrgygyzstan, I was no longer able to access this site to add updates. As of right now, I'm looking into other ways of how I can keep things updated from there on here, or if I have to search out another blog site that I will be able to access in Kstan. Sorry for the lack of updates. Hope to have things up and running on a more regular schedule :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Not So Much Like Christmas

This year doesn’t feel like Christmas. This is my third Christmas here and this one seems to be the least like a holiday- it just seems empty. So I have been thinking why, why do I feel this way-well, there’s no snow, the weather is more like early spring than late December; the ‘holiday spirit’ which is usually everywhere back home isn’t really in existence here; the week of Christmas was the busiest week ever and I pretty much just wanted to make it through it all to be able to rest and relax. Every event went well, and I enjoyed them, but I feel like I’ve been running a marathon for an entire week. My home is decorated, little tree up and decorated, and Christmas cards from past years all hung on my kitchen cabinets. Maybe it’s the factor- I haven’t heard from people back home- no cards yet, no packages from home, just a couple email greetings. When you don’t hear from people, the distance between you seems allthemore evident, the expanse is so far, and you know people didn’t forget about you, but that’s how you feel. I know that none of the fore mentioned is what Christmas is about, I guess it’s good to have everything else stripped away leaving you with just the core of Christmas- the miracle of Christ’s birth.

Honored Guest

So I went to visit my good friend Uulkan, who moved to Kara-Kol not oo long ago. She sounded a little home sick and was still trying to adjust into her new home and work place so I figured I’d go cheer her up with an encouraging visit. We had a good four days talking, walking around the town, and stuff. Then a bunch of us decided to stop by and visit Das and Oxi who had just returned Bishkek. They had several foods out on the table and Dastan gave me the sheep’s tongue! I felt very honored- usually from what I understand- the sheep brains, eyes, and tongue, are the most honorable parts to be given. It did look a little weird as I have never before had a tongue on my dinner plate before and I felt a little weird because I had never eaten one before and didn’t know what it might taste like nor if there was a certain way to eat it. SO being that they are good friends, I just asked, and no special way. So I took my fork and knife and sliced it up- and it is VERY delicious! Just so ya’all know- sheep’s tongue- good stuff!

It’s a wedding!

On Saturday, Aisuluu and I left for Kizilkia. It is a town in the southern part of the country. We headed down there for Saltinat’s wedding. I’ve been to a few weddings here, all in the city, but this one was a more traditional Kyrgyz village style wedding. Well about a year before, Saltinat was a stolen bride- meaning she was pretty much kidnapped and brought to the guy’s family house and had an unofficial ceremony. She decided to stay and remain his wife, and this wedding is more of the official ceremony in which friends and all relatives are invited to.
We first went to his family’s house for something to eat as is customary, and then to her family’s home where we had some more tea. There were also many gifts of furniture and things for the home. Saltinat waited in the house and her husband and the guys came to the house. Her mother and other women stood in the door way not letting them in until they eventually made their way through. Then there were pictures taken of them together and we were on our way for a photo fest! Everyone piles into cars and minibuses decorated with ribbons and drives around the town honking the horns and stopping at the popular places to take photos- parks, monuments, other places. Lots of photos! Then we drove to a café in the park where we enjoyed some ice cream and drinks and did a little dancing. After that we headed back to his family’s home for the major celebration! While they were still setting up we entered another relative’s home and ate some more- soup, plav, fruits, salads, tea, etc. It’s almost like a progressive dinner, except you eat all courses almost every time you sit to eat!
Then we walked a couple houses down where everything had been set up.The street was blocked in front of the house- no car could pass. On one end a very large rug was hung with the couple’s names and congratulations pressed in with cotton; this was the backdrop for the head table where the bride and groom, best man and maid of honor sat. On either side was a long row of tables and benches for everyone else to sit. And opposite the head table was the DJ station and several very gianormous speakers! I think the whole town knew there was a wedding going on! The tables were set with different kinds of home-made breads, salads, drinks, candies, chocolates, and the main dishes-which included plav. As the only American, I was a popular attraction- and yes that is exactly what I felt like. In Bishkek, the people whom I work with and meet, treat me like an ordinary person- here many- mostly guys treated me like some freak show, asking me weird questions about America, and I’m sure the fact that most of them were inebriated didn’t help the conversation topics. But fortunately, I have good friends and others to help create distractions and buffer zones and escapes when necessary. As the ceremony continued, the couple was brought out with many guys dancing around them with another carpet carried over them. They stood next to the head table where his parents came and put a white scarf on her head, then her parents came with gifts. The gift table is placed in front of the head table.
So here is the sequence of events- a group goes to the DJ, (for example our group), you get the mic and say your wishes for the new couple, the Dj playes some music that of which you walk up or dance up to the couple with your gifts in hand and congratulate them, then a new song comes on and everyone is out dancing until another group goes up to the DJ and the routine is started again. It was very fun! I really enjoyed! And I think I ate more in that day than I usually do in an entire week- Kyrgyz culture is very delicious.

Elzar, I Am Not

I was in the bizarre today, walking by all these fresh vegetables and spices and I thought to myself…I really wish I knew how to cook! All these wonderful things at my fingertips and not a know-how to do anything with them. Not that cooking is hard, but I’m usually a recipe kinda girl. I do make stuff up and just cook, and it always tastes good, but with somethings, I wouldn’t even know where to begin, or what might make a good combination together. Not that I have too much time for cooking. I can’t remember the last time I actually cooked a meal, a real meal. Usually after English Club, I come home tired and by time I settle in to make something it is 9:30/10pm, too late for me to start thinking creatively about dinner. So I have resolved that I will begin to plan meals for the week. That way I can buy everything I need for them at the beginning of the week and when I come home I won’t “wish” I had something and look into my mostly empty fridge. Plus I’m pretty sure this idea will definitely improve my diet! Wish me success and if you have any good recipes, feel free to send them my way :) !

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Come again?

Learning another language is not easy. How anyone can be a translator be multilingual is beyond me- it just blows my mind. Although I am usually the one making the mistakes and sounding silly, the tables are turned in English Club! So I thought I’d write about some of the funnies.
Talking with some students, one was saying that he liked old movies like with Audrey Hepburn, and I said that I did too. Then Eldar said we had a common tongue. Everyone looked at him inquisitively because it was a little hard to understand him, then when we understood, we kinda laughed about the phrase “common tongue”.

In grammar class we were talking about plurals- the words much, many etc. While they were practicing using these words, Azamat was telling about a time when he saw many policemen on the street, and how he had never “seen such a much policemen before”. Such a much ! Oh we laughed. It’s ok to laugh with each other in English Club, it’s a good atmosphere. So now, when we want to tell about a lot of something, we say our new English phrase “suchamuch”.

When speaking English, it’s all normal for me, it’s my native language and I don’t know all the words in the Russian language, so sometimes I come across the situation when I say something in English and everyone goes into shock. Loud gasps, followed by smirks, and giggles, and then the question “what did you say?” Then I repeat my English word, and again the shock, but then they say in Russian, that is a bad word- don’t say that. Usually people do not tell me what the word means in Russian, sometimes they hint to it or say a lesser evil word. So, seasick, pennies, pedestrian, are some of the words ok in English but sound like bad Russian words. Though there is the reverse to that too, and at first you feel uneasy saying this word because it doesn’t sound so pleasant by your own language.

Then there are the music learners. Who come to class with the new words and phrases they heard from the English songs on the radio. Oh boy! I try to let them know, so that they know what it is, it is important to know the things you are listening to and singing along with. Maybe they will choose to listen to a different song if they realize what that one is about. But it can be rather uneasy, they ask and then they see me get kinda embarrassed at trying to explain, and trying to tactfully explain. Though sometimes, I just say- it’s not good, not a good word, not a good phrase.

Then there are always the questions that catch you off guard- like, how do you spell ukulele (which I did have to look up)? What does the word Mississippi mean? Is it French? What is a superpod? And sometimes…if it is completely nothing I’ve ever heard before, I usually say “It must be British English.” That has become my favorite excuse.

Learning and teaching definitely keeps life interesting and funny!

Garbage Day….the saga continues…

Two weeks ago while standing outside waiting for the garbage truck, one of my neighbors from down the street, a woman whom I’ve never really met, started walking up the street saying, “Девочка, Девочка!” Translated as “Girl, Girl”, I assumed she was talking to me as my other close neighbors are a man and an older woman. So she starts talking to me and immediately my mind begins to panic hoping I am able to understand her fast Russian. She was telling me how I needed to pay for the garbage services once a year, and how much it was, etc. She then, what I understood was to pay someone in another neighboring home, which I thought was the home she exited from. So I ran inside to get the money, and when I returned she had gone back down to her home. Now, a little confused, I thought about asking the man across the street who exactly I’m supposed to pay, but then I say that same lady talking to the driver of the garbage truck and it appeared she gave him something, so I thought- oh I pay him. Well the truck came up, I handed the guys in the back my garbage bag and then gave the money to the driver. Done deal. Well, it seems I am prone to mistakes and misunderstandings because the next garbage day, this same lady starts calling to me from down the street, and only until she got closer could I understand. She asked me if I paid, and I said yes. She asked me when, and I said that same day she told me about it. Then she asked who I paid, and I said the guy and pointed to the man in the garbage truck. At that, all my neighbors in ear shot started laughing. I could tell the guy across the street was trying not to, but found it too humorous. So then, my heart sank, and I felt like an idiot and I knew I messed up. She told me that I was to pay the woman at the house, so now I’m thinking the drive took the money and now I have to pay the lady too. I figured it’s my own fault- I need to be brave to ask more questions to know for sure. Well, she waited next to me until the truck came and she asked the driver if I paid him, and he thankfully said YES, and I could see he was smirking at the situation too. Anyway, she continued speaking to me about the situation, I think that he was going to sign that I paid or give the lady the money, something along those lines and when she was done asked if I understood. I said yes. I was too afraid to say not really. So I went into the house feeling two inches high, like the town idiot, and wondering if our neighbors come out on garbage day just to see what the silly American girl will do this week.